Friday, August 27, 2010

Obama disappoints the Greens

He hasn't gone anti-green. It's just that he wants all power to reside in his bureaucracy

The Obama administration has urged the Supreme Court to toss out an appeals court decision that would allow lawsuits against major emitters for their contributions to global warming, stunning environmentalists who see the case as a powerful prod on climate change.

In the case, AEP v. Connecticut, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with a coalition of states, environmental groups and New York City. The decision, handed down last year, said they could proceed with a lawsuit that seeks to force several of the nation's largest coal-fired utilities to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

The defendants -- American Electric Power Co. Inc., Duke Energy Corp., Southern Co. and Xcel Energy Inc. -- filed a petition for review with the Supreme Court earlier this month, asking the court to reject the argument that greenhouse gas emissions can be addressed through "public nuisance" lawsuits (Greenwire, Aug. 4).

In a brief (pdf) filed yesterday on behalf of the Tennessee Valley Authority, acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal agreed with the defendants, saying that U.S. EPA's newly finalized regulations on greenhouse gases have displaced that type of common-law claim.

Katyal urged the court to vacate the decision and remand the case to the 2nd Circuit for further proceedings, this time taking into account the administration's push to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act.

The 2nd Circuit's decision rested on the assertion that "EPA does not currently regulate carbon dioxide," but that has since changed. The Obama administration has finalized several regulations in response to the Supreme Court's 2007 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, which told the agency to decide whether greenhouse gases were pollutants under the Clean Air Act.

"Since this court held in 2007 that carbon dioxide falls within that regulatory authority, EPA has taken several significant steps toward addressing the very question presented here," Katyal wrote. "That regulatory approach is preferable to what would result if multiple district courts -- acting without the benefit of even the most basic statutory guidance -- could use common-law nuisance claims to sit as arbiters of scientific and technology-related disputes and de factoregulators of power plants and other sources of pollution both within their districts and nationwide."

Matt Pawa, an attorney representing plaintiffs in the case, said he and his colleagues expected the White House to stay out of the matter. During a meeting with more than 30 administration lawyers at the solicitor general's office on June 24, it seemed they had "a lot of friends in the room," he said.

"We feel stabbed in the back," Pawa said. "This was really a dastardly move by an administration that said it was a friend of the environment. With friends like this, who needs enemies?"

Top attorneys at environmental advocacy groups are buzzing about the brief, sources say. Some feel betrayed by a White House that has generally been more amenable to environmental regulation than its predecessor.

"This reads as if it were cut and pasted from the Bush administration's briefing in Massachusetts," said David Bookbinder, who served as the Sierra Club's chief climate counsel until his resignation in May.


Global warmists abandoned fact for fancy

By Roger Helmer

Around the world, the fight against "cli- mate change" and carbon dioxide e emissions is costing literally hundreds of billions of dollars - and this at a time when the Western world is ravaged by recession.

We can ill afford these sums. Many scientists think CO2 emissions have a trivial effect on climate, but even those who support the theory of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) generally agree that the efforts we are making will result in changes so small that they cannot even be measured.

Given that China is building a new coal-fired power station every week, with India not far behind, it's a fair bet that CO2 emissions will increase for decades regardless of what we in the West do. If the United Kingdom, for example, were to turn off its economy totally and not burn so much as a candle, China would make up our emissions savings in about 12 months.

Just 70 years ago, at the height of the Battle of Britain, Winston Churchill gave what became perhaps the most famous political speech in British history. Were he here today and able to comment on the great climate debate, he might well be saying, "Never in the field of public policy has so much been spent by so many for so little."

They say there's "a consensus" of scientists who support AGW. But science proceeds by hypothesis and falsification, not consensus. As author Michael Crichton famously put it, "If it's science, it's not consensus. And if it's consensus, it's not science."

We are told that the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) represents a consensus of 2,500 experts in the field. Yet when we look at the details, we find that the IPCC process, and especially the Summary for Policymakers, is in the hands of a small group, no more than two or three dozen.

The practically incestuous links among these scientists were revealed in a 2006 report by a team led by George Mason University statistics professor Edward Wegman at the request of Congress following a report by the National Research Council. These people work together, publish papers together and peer-review each others' work. And we now know from the "Climate" leaks that they also cobbled together unrelated data sets, sought to "hide the decline," to eliminate the Medieval Warm Period from the record, to prevent publication of alternative views and to bring about the dismissal of editors who took a more open-minded approach.

Science is supposed to follow the facts and seek the truth. These guys started with a conviction about climate change and sought to make the data fit the preconception. They called themselves the "Hockey Team," and they included Michael Mann - creator of the infamous "hockey stick" graph - perhaps the most discredited artifact in the history of science, which nonetheless took pride of place in the IPCC's Third Assessment Report.

To understand climate hysteria, we need look no further than the Watergate advice: "Follow the money." Governments, think tanks, institutions and universities spend huge sums on climate research. Academics can't obtain work, tenure, grant funding or publication without toeing the line. Even researchers in unrelated fields can ensure funding by adding the context of climate change to their proposals. Thousands of jobs in government, academia, the media and industry depend on the climate issue.

The East Midlands region of the United Kingdom, which I represent in the European Parliament, has just committed $1.5 million to "climate change skills training" (read "propaganda").

And the propaganda works. Every schoolchild knows about dangerous sea-level rise. But the children don't know that it's simply a projection of a virtual-reality computer model. They don't know that in the real world, sea-level rise (at around six to seven inches in 100 years) is the same as it has been for centuries, that the Maldives and Tuvalu aren't sinking beneath the waves. They don't know that successive IPCC reports have consistently reduced their alarmist estimates for sea-level rise by 2100.

Every schoolchild knows that the ice caps are melting - but glaciers and ice fields accumulate snow (which compacts to ice) at high levels, while chunks of ice break off at the margin. Vast blocks of ice tumbling into the sea make great video footage, but they say nothing about warming or cooling. That's simply what ice sheets do.

There has been some retreat of glaciers since about 1800 (long before CO2 became an issue), but geological evidence shows that glaciers regularly advance and retreat with the Earth's climate cycles. We are simply seeing a natural recovery from the Little Ice Age. And global ice mass is broadly constant.

In 1942, six Lockheed P-38F Lightning fighters were lost in Greenland. In 1988, they were rediscovered under 270 feet of solid ice. That's an ice buildup of nearly six feet a year.

Every schoolchild knows about the plight of the polar bear (the alarmists' pinup species), threatened by climate change. But how many know that polar bear numbers have increased substantially in recent decades and that polar bears are thriving?

In each of these cases, the alarmists put the projections of virtual-reality computer models ahead of real-world observation. Yet these models are programmed with a wide range of estimates and assumptions - including the assumption that CO2 is a major cause of warming. Little surprise, then, that they predict that outcome.


Warmists hanging on to secrecy like grim death

What have they got to hide? No need to guess

A team of lawyers for Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II, a vocal skeptic of global warming, went to court Friday to further his investigation into whether former University of Virginia professor Michael Mann manipulated data to show that there has been a rapid, recent rise in the Earth's temperature.

Lawyers from the attorney general's office said the climate scientist might have engaged in fraud by purposely designing his well-known "hockey-stick" graph to show global warming or including manipulated research on his curriculum vitae, which he submitted for grants.

Deputy Attorney General Wesley G. Russell Jr., who argued the case on Cuccinelli's behalf, said there was a possibility of a "consistent pattern of manipulation of data."

But attorneys for the university say other investigations found no wrongdoing by Mann, who did not attend Friday's hearing.

Cuccinelli issued a civil investigative demand, essentially a subpoena, for documents from U-Va. for five grant applications Mann prepared and all e-mail between Mann and his research assistants, secretaries and 39 other scientists across the country. U-Va. is fighting back, arguing that the demand exceeds Cuccinelli's authority under state law and intrudes on the rights of professors to pursue academic inquiry free from political pressure.

Albemarle Circuit Court Judge Paul Peatross took the matter under advisement, saying he would rule within 10 days.


BBC hedging its bets: Actually talking to skeptics!

In a special Radio 4 series the BBC's Environmental Analyst Roger Harrabin investigates whether the arguments surrounding climate change can ever be won. He questions whether his own reporting - and that of others - has adequately told the whole story about global warming.

Roger Harrabin has reported on the climate for almost thirty years off and on, but last November while working on the "Climategate" emails story, he was prompted to look again at the basics of climate science.

He finds that the public under-estimate the degree of consensus among scientists that humans have contributed towards the heating of the climate. But he also finds that politicians often fail to convey the huge uncertainty over the extent of future climate change.

At this crucial moment in global climate policy making, he talks to seminal characters in the climate change debate including Tony Blair, Lord Lawson, Sir Crispin Tickell and the influential blogger Steve McIntyre.

Just six months ago, public trust in climate science looked assured as nations moved towards the climate summit in Copenhagen. Now a recent BBC poll suggests that less than half of the British populace accepts that humans are changing the climate - the fundamental premise of government policy on energy, transport, planning, construction; and a major influence on policy in taxation, agriculture and foreign affairs.

This first programme in the series examines what happened to cause this swing in public sentiment.
It asks whether the scientific reviews underway - two down, two to go - will restore public faith in climate science.

It examines the sceptics' argument that mainstream scientists have under-estimated the role of natural cycles in the recent warm period. And it considers whether changes in the output of the sun might even be leading the Earth into a period of cooling.


Wind Power Won't Cool Down the Planet

The wind industry has achieved remarkable growth largely due to the claim that it will provide major reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. There's just one problem: It's not true. A slew of recent studies show that wind-generated electricity likely won't result in any reduction in carbon emissions—or that they'll be so small as to be almost meaningless.

This issue is especially important now that states are mandating that utilities produce arbitrary amounts of their electricity from renewable sources. By 2020, for example, California will require utilities to obtain 33% of their electricity from renewables. About 30 states, including Connecticut, Minnesota and Hawaii, are requiring major increases in the production of renewable electricity over the coming years.

Wind—not solar or geothermal sources—must provide most of this electricity. It's the only renewable source that can rapidly scale up to meet the requirements of the mandates. This means billions more in taxpayer subsidies for the wind industry and higher electricity costs for consumers.

None of it will lead to major cuts in carbon emissions, for two reasons. First, wind blows only intermittently and variably. Second, wind-generated electricity largely displaces power produced by natural gas-fired generators, rather than that from plants burning more carbon-intensive coal.

Because wind blows intermittently, electric utilities must either keep their conventional power plants running all the time to make sure the lights don't go dark, or continually ramp up and down the output from conventional coal- or gas-fired generators (called "cycling"). But coal-fired and gas-fired generators are designed to run continuously, and if they don't, fuel consumption and emissions generally increase. A car analogy helps explain: An automobile that operates at a constant speed—say, 55 miles per hour—will have better fuel efficiency, and emit less pollution per mile traveled, than one that is stuck in stop-and-go traffic.

Recent research strongly suggests how this problem defeats the alleged carbon-reducing virtues of wind power. In April, Bentek Energy, a Colorado-based energy analytics firm, looked at power plant records in Colorado and Texas. (It was commissioned by the Independent Petroleum Association of the Mountain States.) Bentek concluded that despite huge investments, wind-generated electricity "has had minimal, if any, impact on carbon dioxide" emissions.

Bentek found that thanks to the cycling of Colorado's coal-fired plants in 2009, at least 94,000 more pounds of carbon dioxide were generated because of the repeated cycling. In Texas, Bentek estimated that the cycling of power plants due to increased use of wind energy resulted in a slight savings of carbon dioxide (about 600 tons) in 2008 and a slight increase (of about 1,000 tons) in 2009.

Earlier this year, another arm of the Department of Energy, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, released a report whose conclusions were remarkably similar to those of the EIA. This report focused on integrating wind energy into the electric grid in the Eastern U.S., which has about two-thirds of the country's electric load. If wind energy were to meet 20% of electric needs in this region by 2024, according to the report, the likely reduction in carbon emissions would be less than 200 million tons per year. All the scenarios it considered will cost at least $140 billion to implement. And the issue of cycling conventional power plants is only mentioned in passing.


Biofuel mandates are stunningly counterproductive

For a start, biofuels make huge demands on the water suppy -- largely to feed the vast areas of new cropland that would be required. And it appears that they would not reduce CO2 levels anyway

Those amazing Idsos who run the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change review a paper recently published in AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment by Mulder et al. (2010), who assess the energy return on water invested (EROWI) of several renewable and non-renewable fuels.

In the paper, provocatively titled “Burning Water,” the Mulder team find that “the most water-efficient, fossil-based technologies have an EROWI one to two orders of magnitude [10 to 100 times] greater than the most water-efficient biomass technologies, implying that the development of biomass energy technologies in scale sufficient to be a significant source of energy may produce or exacerbate water shortages around the globe and be limited by the availability of fresh water.”

The Idsos note that these findings “will not be welcomed” by those who promote biofuels as a means of combating the alleged national security risks of global climate change.

We often hear, for example, that climate change will increase the risk of “water wars” by intensifying summer heat and drought. There’s not much evidence to support this alarm. About 90% of global fresh water consumption is for agriculture. As British scientist Wendy Barnaby found to her surprise when she set out to research a book about the coming “century of water wars,” nations in water-stressed regions typically do not come to blows but instead cooperate and import “virtual water” in the form of grain, leaving more water available for drinking and bathing.

Even in the water-stressed, conflict-prone, Middle East, nations do not go to war over water. Nonetheless, to the extent that water stress undermines stability and peace, government policies ramping up biofuel production are likely a “cure” worse than the supposed disease.

In addition, some biofuel policies can increase food prices and world hunger, fostering instability and strife, especially if scaled up enough to make a meaningful difference in global carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

Princeton researchers Stephen Pacella and Robert Socolow estimate that avoiding 1 gigaton (gt) of carbon emissions per year by 2050, by replacing gasoline with biofuels, would require 250 million hectares of high-yield energy crop planations, “an area equal to about one-sixth of the world’s current cropland.”

Let’s put this in perspective. One gigaton of carbon = 3.67 gt of CO2. Achieving the EU/UN emission stabilization target of 450 parts per million would require global CO2 emissions to decline roughly 38 gt below the baseline (business as usual) projection by 2050. In other words, the 3.67 gt reduction in CO2 that Pacala and Socolow say we can get via biofuels would achieve less than 10% of the reduction required to meet the target. Not a whole lot of environmental bang for all that land area buck. Indeed, dedicating 250 million hectares to energy crop production would likely squeeze many species out of their habitats.

Note also that significant research indicates that converting grassland and forest land into biofuel plantations increases net greenhouse gas emissions over many decades by releasing the carbon stored in forests and soils. Growing biofuel on 250 million hectares of land might very well emit more CO2 than the gasoline it replaces.

The larger point, though, as Dennis Avery explains, is that the world is not well-fed now, and the demand for food and feed on farmlands is expected to more than double by 2050. Requiring biofuel production on 250 million hectares would be a recipe for disaster. Putting the equivalent of one-sixth of current cropland off limits to food production represents a much bigger decline in global agricultural productivity than is anticipated from drought in high-end global warming scenarios.

Warmists warn that climate change is a “threat multiplier” or “instability accelerant.” However, the national security risks of climate change policy likely exceed those of climate change itself.

SOURCE (See the original for links and graphics)


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